Among Friends September 2014

From Unwitting to Unwilling

fj-2014-09-450xThe strength to conquer challenges comes from love.

This is is true whether we are participants in the dominant culture or whether we are the oppressed. Whether we are, as Laura Magnani puts it in “Love in the Belly of the Beast” (p. 6), the keepers or the kept.

So, where is the love?

Daniel Allen (“Finding My Place as a Transitional Friend“) and Emily Higgs (“Continuing Revolution“) write about the longing for a loving community to underpin the full expression of our leadings and our power and effectiveness as activists, no matter whether we are ready to accept that label.

These important meditations on the communal basis for better and more life-giving work lead into pieces about some of the (op)pressing problems we must face: violence against women, a dramatically unjust justice system, institutions Quaker in name and pedigree that struggle to create truly safe environments, and the measure of narcissism Ron McDonald argues white Americans carry—and must confront—to dismantle the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow (both the old and the new).

We want to help bring about a world where every human can realize his or her potential as a unique and valued keeper of the Holy Spirit. We know, experientially, that we have been the unwitting beneficiaries of systems that have evolved to deny that potential to so many while enriching a few. When we are no longer unwitting, the next step is to become unwilling: unwilling to accept the broken world the way it is.

“This is not all that’s possible.” That’s how Noah Merrill, the secretary of New England Yearly Meeting, puts it in one of our recent QuakerSpeak videos. “Something could be different.” Ultimately, says Noah, that’s the heart of the prophetic message that Friends carry and express in the lives they live. “It could be different.” (You can watch the video at QuakerSpeak.)

To connect with Friends at the recent Friends General Conference Gathering, held in July on the campus of California University of Pennsylvania, we tried something new. We brought acclaimed Philadelphia art-and-activism photographer JJ Tiziou with us and took photos of our beautiful community of Quakers. We created a great many images (over 5,600!), a few of which you’ll see on pages 10–11, as well as in future issues. Our mission is to communicate Quaker experience in order to connect and deepen spiritual lives, and I think JJ’s images from our photo booth project speak volumes of the beautiful diversity and love in our community. I am grateful to everyone who participated, and I hope seeing these pictures has the effect on you it has on me: becoming inspired anew by the measure of Light in our fellow humans. Let’s keep looking for that Light together, and in doing so, let’s make the world different.

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